Funding in the sum of $235.3 million may be sought to enable photographs of 600,000 registrants to be taken for the production of new identification cards during the house-to-house registration scheduled to start early next month.
The house-to-house registration is in keeping with an agreement between the government and the parliamentary political opposition in advance of the municipal and local government elections, which are long overdue and which are expected to be held next year.
The Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) projects that the production of brand new ID cards, using colour with new security features could be used until the 2016 elections and they would also be less costly.
Stabroek News understands that President Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed concern about the costs involved in the production of the new ID cards, but the production of new ID cards was never an issue at the level of the GECOM Secretariat or for the commissioners since it would be the last undertaking before the municipal and local government elections and the 2011 general and regional elections.
After this house-to-house registration exercise it is expected that there would be the continuous registration process involving obligatory claims and objections periods that would be used to purify the voters’ list.
Contacted on the issue, GECOM chairman Dr Steve Surujbally told Stabroek News that GECOM would be holding a press conference soon at which the issue would be addressed.
Another commissioner, who did not want to be identified at this time, told Stabroek News that presidential advisor Gail Teixeira wrote to GECOM enquiring about costs but made no reference as to whether government would commit to financing such a venture.
Stabroek News was unable to contact Teixeira yesterday.
This newspaper, however, learnt by way of a document produced by GECOM on the ‘Justification for the production of new National Identification Cards’ that though the agreement on the preparation of a new national register of registrants did not specifically mention the production of new ID cards the production of the new ID cards was inherent in the signed document.
Nevertheless, no decision has as yet been taken as to whether government would or would not undertake the task of sourcing funds for such an undertaking which the commission feels was necessary.
In presenting its case, GECOM in its justification for the production of new national identification cards has said that the house-to-house registration exercise would yield new individual numbers associated with each registrant which would not correspond with those currently in the present MRCs/database.
GECOM has said that to have two sets of numbers associated with the same person would lead to chaos and the thought of such a possibility is currently creating great consternation and a sense of horror in the Information Technology Division of GECOM.
GECOM feels that since the registration exercise was going to be the most definitive undertaking, it makes patent sense not only to do everything correctly but to ensure that all components have a fresh and simultaneous beginning.
“One should not give potential obfuscators a chance to ply their trade,” stated one of GECOM’s reasons for the production of ID cards.
GECOM feels that were it to produce ID cards at some later date, for example 2009 or 2010, it would mean doing over the whole exercise, that is photographing registrants’ faces all over again – with the concomitant costs, which would have increased by 2009 or 2010.
It is proposed that the new ID cards be produced in colour, bringing Guyana in sync with the rest of the Caribbean and with modernity.
GECOM noted that the current cards were produced in 2000 and by the time the 2008 local government elections are held, the current cards would be eight years old and by 2011 when the next general and regional elections are held they would be 11 years old. This means that registrants’ physical features would have changed.
In its justification GECOM noted that the current ID cards were produced in haste for the 2001 elections and are a poor portrayal of the registrants’ visages.
It noted that the old ‘Teslin’ stock (ID card materials) used for the current photographs has been in GECOM’s possession for the past eight years, if calculated from the time of manufacture, the present stock would be about 10 years and for use in the 2011 elections they would then be 13 years old. If brand new cards with new security features are produced during the current exercise they would last until 2016.
The Testlin currently in stock is also devoid of some new security features which GECOM is now negotiating with De La Rue Identity Systems.
According to sources at GECOM, the actual cost would be about $235.3 million and would include new stocks of Teslin, plus the relevant printers and printers consumables, design costs, the relevant system upgrade (hardware and software), engineering services for project delivery, and guaranteed second line technical support for 24 months.
According to the source, the advice to produce new ID cards has come from citizens, stakeholders, donor agencies, and observer groups, among others.